Fund for Women and Girls of the Fairfield County Community Foundation
The Fund for Women and Girls is a permanent Field of Interest fund of the Fairfield County Community Foundation. Thanks to the generosity of individuals, companies and private foundations, it has become the largest women's fund in New England.
Since the Fund's establishment, it has awarded $1.9 million in grants to Fairfield County nonprofits that address the unique needs of women and girls, including fostering economic stability, leadership skills, academic achievement and physical, emotional and social well being. The Fund also educates women about philanthropy, and engages them in creating change through collective, targeted giving.
The Fund for Women and Girls published the first research study on the status of women and girls in Fairfield County, titled "Holding Up Half the Sky." Our research confirmed what was expected — that many women and girls in Fairfield County enjoy exceptional achievement, affluence and security. Yet we also found what we feared — too many women are living at the poverty level because of limited education, low-paying jobs and the high cost of child care.
After a decade of investing grants in programs that help women move into safe, affordable housing and help girls cultivate confidence and life skills, we’re intensifying the Fund’s focus to help low-wage women achieve economic security. Our investments and collaborations aim to create long-term social change to:
- Increase women’s earning potential by helping them get education and training so they can move up into higher-paying jobs.
- Prepare adolescent girls for their futures so they are educated and trained for tomorrow’s job market, and
- Foster social change so all low-wage women in Fairfield County can achieve economic security.
The Family Economic Security Program
In Fairfield County, nearly 20,000 households are headed by women with children under 18. To just “get by” in Fairfield County, a small family with one adult and two young children needs an income of at least $60,000.
Yet women who work full time in Fairfield County earn a median income of $49,700.
Higher education is a proven path to better earnings, yet a college scholarship is not enough for women supporting dependents. Juggling child care, work, class attendance, study time and running a household make it nearly impossible to pursue the education they need to move up to better-paying careers.
A Bold Vision and Strategic Partnership
The Foundation’s Fund for Women and Girls initiated a partnership with Norwalk Community College and the Norwalk Community College Foundation to create the Family Economic Security Program. It’s an adaptation of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s successful Center for Working Families model.
In this five-year pilot program, low and medium-wage students supporting dependents receive tuition assistance, career guidance, achievement coaching, personal finance guidance, and financial assistance for childcare and transportation.
The goal is for up to 100 Norwalk Community College students to complete their Associate degree, transfer to a four-year college and earn a Bachelor’s degree, then enter careers that pay a family-sustaining salary.